Definitely do not have meat for dinner if you’re going to see the new coming of age thriller Bones and All, directed by Luca Guadagnino. Set in the 1980s Midwest, it is an adaptation of a novel with the same name by Camille DeAngelis. It follows two beautiful and oddly relatable young cannibals as they seek out the secrets of their pasts that lay hidden across a myriad backroads of the Midwest, and within their repressed memories. This film works through all the typical traumatic coming of age tropes but adds a fun sprinkling of extra, utterly absurd, pain – what if you also had to eat people?
The film begins as our hungry heroine Maren (Taylor Russell) is abandoned by her father as he is no longer able to cope with her ravenous appetite for human flesh – having begun by devouring her babysitters face at only 3 years old, which results in her haphazard search for her mother a few states over.
Desolate, despairing and dangerous Maren flees heedlessly on to the nearest Greyhound bus, never considering the consequences.. And never considering that she might not be the only ‘eater’ out there. In her journey she meets two fellow cannibals, and develops deep ties with both of them throughout the film – one for the better and one for the worse.
Her first encounter with an eager ‘eater’ is her run in with Sully (Mark Rylance), whose performance at times made me want to run from the cinema and vomit into the nearest bin and at others made me pity the clearly broken man who had lived a life of isolation and pain. Rylance’s performance throughout the film is a real stand-out, compelling and utterly horrifying – it swings from moments of spitting rage standing neatly on the side of a road, to vast vulnerability while coated in deep red blood.
Our third ‘eater’ is Lee, the man everyone is probably going to buy a ticket to see – Timothée Chalamet. With a grown out shaggy pink-ish mullet and extremely ripped jeans oh and, of course, dripping with blood from his most recent meal, Lee sweeps up Maren in his dinner’s pickup and acts as her valet as she tries to find her mother. In turn Maren clings to Lee and they end up sharing a life and many ‘meals’ together.
I expected my interest in the film to be driven by the cannibal factor, but I found myself instead swept up in the dynamics of the relationship between Lee and Maren – did they love each other? Would their opposing views on their forced consumption of human flesh force them apart? Equally, my enjoyment of the film also stemmed from the excellent cinematography from Guadagnino – sweeping shots of bitter decaying americana almost make you think that these tortured ‘eaters’ are doing the world a favour by eating the cultural and literal carrion around them.
While grotesque, this movie is a delicious metaphor for both the catholicism of Guadagnino’s youth and the abandonment felt by those living on the fringes of society. It explores what it is like to be a person without a place to rest, to wander because you have no foothold in the society around you and what it is like to be forced to consume, unbidden, those around you.